Zucchini carrot ricotta-pesto rose tart, #3, and clothes shopping

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Fall! Crisp underfoot, leaves, pumpkin, bonfires…… Here in Accra there is no sense of fall, just temperatures creeping up after the rainy season and unseasonably early Christmas decorations in the supermarkets. Trees are flowering and I am so glad I stocked up on allergy medications while recently in Europe. As usual I brought some ricotta, which ended up in this rose tart. I first made this in 2013, which seems like ages ago. A little fiddly to make, but very satisfying.

Zucchini carrot ricotta-pesto rose tart, #3

One package ready-made puff pastry
3 zucchini
3 carrots
120 gr fresh pesto
250 gr ricotta
Salt, pepper

Roll out your dough into a pie dish. (Here it came with carta al forno, baking paper.)  Slice the zucchini and carrots lengthwise into long thin strips, with a potato peeler or a mandolin. Here I used a cheese slicer, which made the slices a little too thick. I doubled the ricotta and pesto and soldiered on.

Mix pesto and ricotta, half of each, with a little salt and pepper. Spread some ricotta-pesto mix on the strips of carrot and zucchini. I did this directly on the pastry. Roll the strips somewhat tightly together, so they looks like a rosebud. (Yes, albeit a pesto-smeared, green one.) This time I smeared some ricotta mix on the pastry base, which made it easier to assemble the rose roll when cooking alone.

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This is finicky, but the rolls held together well. Alternate carrot and zucchini, rolling until you have a good sized roll. Add last strips to fill the dish. Tuck the pastry edges over.
Bake at 180C until it looks done. Twenty minutes or so? Slice into wedges and enjoy. We did!

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For some colour: shirts at the small craft market at the WEB Dubois center. My wardrobe contents are gradually getting replaced by locally made clothes, generally tailored, but the craft markets are fun. After almost three years in Accra, sweating through clothes at least once a day, my old work tops are fraying and fading. However, my dress sense and current outfits are definitely getting brighter after three years in Accra. This time I bought a dark blue batik jacket with bell sleeves, relatively sober: definitely too hot for Accra, but this will be good for work trips where the airconditioning can be fierce (or absent), and layering can be key. This cost 120 Ghana cedis, which is about … 24.5 USD, with a bit of a discount. I find it hard to bargain as a privileged foreigner here, but love these textiles.

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Soon to be seen at a workshop somewhere!

Making rotolo (stuffed pasta rolls)

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Back in Accra, and catching up with cooking and writing. As usual I came back with fresh food, this time some fresh pasta and ricotta. Fresh pumpkin and spinach I found here: it is so good to see more vegetables available in Accra. I’d seen rotolo mentioned in a Jamie Oliver article in the Guardian, then again in this blogpost which had a nicer recipe, I thought. It’s like a vertically rolled vegetable lasagna, really nice. Time to try it!

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Rotolo (stuffed pasta rolls)

500 gr pumpkin, boiled or steamed
250 gr ricotta
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
400 gr fresh baby spinach, washed drained and blanched

800 gr tinned tomatoes, chopped (I use kitchen scissors in the tin….)
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

4 sheets fresh pasta 125 gr 20×40 cm – this one cooks in 15 min

Topping: 100 gr cheese of your choice, optional

There are various components to this: pasta sheets, topped with mashed pumpkin, with a dollop of steamed spinach mixed with ricotta. The pasta is rolled up, set vertically in a dish, with tomato sauce poured around the rolls, and baked. Cheese added last ten minutes. It’s not complicated but also not a quick dish to make, though I enjoyed making this.  Let’s see:

Pumpkin: steam, roast or boil it. Drain and cool a bit, and mash.

Tomato sauce: Chop onion and garlic,  fry gently in olive oil, tip in chopped tomato wirh salt and pepper, and let cook gently while you prep the rest.

Spinach: Blanched it quickly in the pumpkin cooking water. Drain, cool slightly  (so you can handle it). Squeeze out water (I used a kitchen towel) and roughly chop. Mix it with ricotta, nutmeg, thyme plus a pinch of salt.

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Lay out your pasta sheets, and slather on some mashed pumpkin. These pasta sheets were 15×20 min (for lasagna), a good size. Add a generous dollop of ricotta-spinach mixture in the middle of each, spread it across the middle parallell to the short  side. Roll up the sheets from the short end.  Cut each roll into three pieces  and set down in a baking dish. Pour tomato sauce into the gaps.

Cover in foil, bake 20 min at 180C. Then top with cheese and bake 10 min more, without foil.

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Before it went into oven… and as it came out, with slightly crispy pasta edges and melted cheese. Definitely something to make again.

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Fennel soup with zucchini, to cure a cold

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Ah, Rome and Garbatella….. I had two days at home before flying back to Accra, and made the most of it: prosciutto e melone, gelato, pizza bianca slathered with fresh ricotta with truffles. Here we’ve just had cappuccini at the bar before the August heat became too oppressive.  We bumped into neighbours, some complaining about the caldo africano (“African heat”…) and the state of the streets, with grafitti, uncollected garbage piling up and a multitude of potholes. I was also updated on  #flambus, the Atac buses catching fire.  Still, it was lovely to be back, especially to see friends and wander round the neighborhood before it got too hot.

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Even early in the day the cicadas were noisy. I did my usual grocery shopping for Accra (pasta, tuna, six kinds of cheese) with some fresh vegetables added in. Once back  in Accra I went down with a terrible cold, so besides a little mushroom risotto, this soup was the only thing I have actually cooked yet.  It was really just to salvage the fennel, which had gotten a bit battered, but it was very good when down with a bad cold.
Fennel soup with zucchini

2 tbs olive oil
2-3 medium large fennel bulbs, cored and diced
3 cloves garlic
1 lone zucchini that did not fit in the box, diced
1 litre vegetable stock
salt
pepper (I was heavy-handed)

Fry the chopped fennel for a few minutes, then tip in zucchini and garlic and stock. If you have an onion, chop that and chuck that in too. Bring to boil and cook gently for ten minutes, until the fennel is tender. With an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve in a mug while you sniffle and cough and watch an episode of “Take Two”.  Neither will tax you.

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